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Finally, Some Good News on Wall Street

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Think for a second: When’s the last time you heard any welcome news—news really worth celebrating—out of New York City’s Financial District? (Here’s a hint: it was likely back in the days when Lehman Brothers was considered a bastion of solvency.)

Once the epicenter of Manhattan’s high-rolling, fat-cat corporate culture, Wall Street has lately been in serious need of a boost. That’s why the opening of the Andaz Wall Street hotel earlier this month couldn’t have been better timed; finally, in their hour of need, both weary business visitors and beleaguered hometown financiers were granted a new sanctuary.

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Dr. Ruth Launches "Date Nights D.C."

Washington, D.C. is getting a different kind of stimulus package this month—one spearheaded by the newly-appointed Secretary of Love and Relationships, Dr. Ruth Westheimer. The famous love doctor (inspired by the Obama’s “date nights”) has wasted no time in making her priorities clear, by launching “Date Nights D.C.,” a program that offers tons of deals during the month of February at D.C. hotels, restaurants, museums and more. Here are some highlights:

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W Hotels to Name a 'Fashion Director'

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Wall Street Journal |  Putting a new spin on the term "designer hotel," boutique chain W Hotels is hiring a fashion director to amp up its style credentials and its profile within the fashion industry.

After a two-year search, the chain is planning to announce next week—on Feb. 11, the opening day of New York Fashion Week—that it has hired stylist Amanda Ross in what is very likely a first for the hotel industry. W Hotels, which operates 36 properties worldwide, is a unit of Starwood Hotel & Resorts Worldwide Inc.

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Just Back: Vail and Beaver Creek, Colorado

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With my snowboarding skills firmly intact, I decided this season I would head west again (after three years) for some real-deal riding. Here are my highlights from my January jaunt to Vail and Beaver Creek.

Favorite runs:
Avanti and Pickeroon, Vail (lift ticket $97 a day)—often-groomed, excellent mix of intermediate and advanced slope.
Larkspur Bowl and Golden Bear, Beaver Creek (lift ticket $97 a day)—the bowl was next to empty and made me shout, WOOHOO, multiple times; I renamed Golden Bear “Honey Bear” because it was such a sweet ride.

Favorite après-ski spots:
Garfinkel’s, Lionshead (drinks for two $15)—lots of picnic tables outside, making it easy to spot your friends; I accidentally stayed après après.
Los Amigos, at Vail Village (drinks for two $15)—watch tired experts and out-of-their-league beginners make their last run down the black-diamond Pepi’s Face, and be thankful you’ve already loosened your boots.

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Is This Really As Dirty As A Hotel Can Get?

If this is the fifth dirtiest hotel in America, things may be better than they seem. The Quality Inn in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, found itself on the worst sort of list recently: TripAdvisor's 2010 Dirtiest Hotels in the United States. Reporters at the local newspaper, the Pocono Record, showed up with a video camera the next day and posted the results on You Tube. It's hard to discount the numerous bad reviews about the hotel found on Tripadvisor.com; some of the specific complaints are positively disgusting. Yet when you view the video, you wonder how the images could be so vastly different from the Tripadvisor user comments.

Mark Orwoll is Travel + Leisure's international correspondent.

British Holiday Inns Debut Human "Bed Warmers"

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- Bed made...check!
- Guestroom cleaned prior to arrival...check!
- Mini-bar fully stocked...check!
- Wireless internet working...check!
- Hotel staff member warming bed...ch—wait, what?

One of the more notable traits of a worthwhile hotel is its attention to details. Whether it's a personalized welcome letter from the G.M., goodies for your accompanying canine companion, or just the personal touch that comes with staff greeting you by name when you walk through the lobby, it's the little things that really entice guests to keep coming back again and again.

But Holiday Inn is taking that attention to detail just a little bit further....In a new campaign, three of the hotel's some 1,300 properties—two in London and 1 in Manchester, England—are offering their guests the option to have their beds warmed up prior to arrival. Not by heated blankets. Not by hot bottles of water. But by willing staff members outfitted with fleece...onesies!

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My Monied Valentine: High-Ticket V-Day Packages

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Are you a wealthy philanderer or disgraced politician looking to woo back your spouse?  When compared to the alimony and lawyers’ fees you could be served with, the over-the-top Valentines packages below may seem like a cautious investment.  For the rest of us, don your Holly Golightly sunglasses and look through the windows at Tiffany & Co. to see how the rich can opt to show their affection. (Honestly, when you factor in the fancy dinners and multiple night stays of some of these packages, they don’t seem quite so out of reach even for those of us without guilty consciences or fat wallets.)

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"Come Up To My Room"

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With all the Olympic buzz going on now, it might be easy to forget there are plenty of other events happening in Canada this winter. On the other end of the country, Toronto's Gladstone Hotel just kicked off their annual alternative design event Come Up To My Room. Starting yesterday, art installations took over the hotel's second floor gallery space and 14 public spaces and will be there until this Sunday, January 24.

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Just Back: St. Bart’s and Anguilla

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I’ve just returned from a blissfully relaxing trip to the deep Caribbean. After the Christmas rush, my family annually escapes to the West Indies for a week of sailing, diving, and, with months-in-advance reservations in place, great food! As French and posh as ever, St. Bart’s seemed virtually unaffected by the unfavorable economic climate—with Microsoft magnate Paul Allen’s 416 foot mega-yacht Octopus in the lead, an unparalleled collection of pristine 150+ footers took up their usual spots on Gustavia’s glitzy dock.

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That is, until a powerful tide and unforeseen surge forced the multimillion dollar vessels to leave their front-row seats on the flashy dock and retreat to the outer harbor (where our relatively diminutive sailboat lay), leaving the high-profile passengers to be shuttled in their heels and tuxes to the mainland in lieu of stepping right off their boat onto dry ground. A nice reminder that being on a boat does, in fact, involve being in contact with water!

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Where to Stay: 2010 Winter Olympics

Think it's too late to score a hotel room for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver? Think again. I spoke with the Four Seasons Whistler's general manager Tuesday and have great news for all of you winter sports fanatics who thought you lost your chance: Not only does the luxury property still have rooms available for the Games, it's also offering an Olympic package.

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